This new school year is bringing an intensified focus on bullying, especially bullying and its modern twin, cyber-bullying.
Today and tomorrow, the U.S. Department of Education will host a two-day summit on bullying that focuses on online harassment. Earlier this month, the media watchdog group Common Sense Media launched it own campaign to combat cyberbullying. Facebook and Time Warner, too, this week joined the effort by launching a new app called Stop Bullying: Speak Up Social Pledge.
All good. Often, though, preventing and avoiding bullying is best accomplished in smaller, living room summits and campaigns. Parents are most needed to guide children and teens as they explore both new social dynamics and the giant, unfamiliar, constantly changing neighborhood online.
The new technologies our kids use to communicate with friends (and sometimes frenemies) can be hard to keep up with. Stacie Rumenap, executive director of the Washington-based Stop Internet Predators suggests that parents follow a few basic guidelines to stay on top of the new terrain:
• Be sure to keep an eye on who your child contacts and how much time they spend online, [including] other points of Internet access too, like cell phones and gaming consoles.
• Stress to your children that they should never physically meet anyone they’ve only become friends with online.
• Talk to kids about the types of information they post online and how it can impact their reputation and future. Kids can unknowingly give out personal details about their life that could be maliciously used... And embarrassing and inappropriate photos and comments can stay with you forever.
• If your child is being bullied, take action. By filtering e-mail, instant messages and text messages, you can cut off many of the ways the bullies contact your child. By having your child avoid the sites where the cyber bullying occurs, he or she can avoid the bully.
But if harassment continues, change your child’s e-mail and user names on Internet accounts. If that fails to stop the bullying, contact the parents of the bully and school administrators, and involve law enforcement if necessary.
Are you comfortable monitoring your child’s online world? What are your family’s technology ground rules?
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